Tag Archive: Luc Besson


Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s what Blade Runner fans have been waiting for, and if your appetite was whetted by the movie Blade Runner 2049, then you’re going to want to check our the next era of Blade Runner stories as Titan Comics goes back to a parallel Earth future in Blade Runner 2019.  The future is now.  It’s been worth the wait, as the new story looks and feels like we’re back inside Philip K. Dick’s original vision in his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  In the neo-noir city of Los Angeles, 2019, Ash, a veteran Blade Runner, is working the kidnapping of a billionaire’s wife and child.  Is the CEO of the new Canaan Corporation any better than those behind the Tyrell Corporation?  Written by Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Michael Green (Logan, Blade Runner 2049), with co-writer Mike Johnson (Supergirl, Star Trek), get ready for Blade Runner to experience the treatment we’ve seen in recent years for franchises like Firefly, Planet of the Apes, and Alien, as another new world of science fiction storytelling opens up.  Green and Johnson have written a perfect first chapter.

This very first original, in-canon story set in the Blade Runner universe is illustrated by Andres Guinaldo (Justice League Dark, Captain America) with brilliant color work by Marco Lesko.   You’re going to see something surprising in Guinaldo’s artwork–not only is this the world of Philip K. Dick, Ridley Scott, and Syd Mead′s neo-noir future, readers will see influences from cyberpunk and tech-noir classics like John Carpenter′s Escape from New York, Luc Besson′s The Fifth Element and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Neill Blomkamp′s Elysium, James Cameron′s The Terminator and Aliens, Robert Rodriguez′s Alita: Battle Angel, and the other futureworlds adapted to film from Philip K. Dick′s stories.  It all probably comes down to the versatility, breadth, and influence of concept artist Syd Mead, but the creators do give due credit to Dick, Scott, Hampton Fancher, David Peoples, Michael Deeley–and Mead–for the look and feel of their new story.

The first issue arrives next Wednesday, and you can pick from four cover options, from Stanley “Artgerm” Lau, Andreas Guinaldo, John Royle, and an original concept piece by Syd Mead.

Check out our sneak preview of the first issue of Blade Runner 2019, courtesy of Titan Comics, plus a new trailer for the series released just today:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s not often a sequel surpasses the first novel in the series, but that’s the place where Spaceside lands.  And that’s saying something, because Michael Mammay′s Planetside was one powerful first novel.  I first reviewed Planetside before its release only a year ago here at borg, and its combination of military thriller and sci-fi action story was one of last year’s best sci-fi reads.  Happily for readers of Mammay’s first story, the protagonist this round is again Colonel Carl Butler, that ex-military mastermind who keeps getting pulled back into danger.  Imagine Edge of Tomorrow’s General Brigham a few years after the war or Starship Troopers’ Lieutenant Rasczak if he’d lived to fight another day, and you’ll have an idea of what you’re in for with Colonel Butler.

But this story and this style is different for Mammay.  I saw Planetside as military conspiracy-thriller in sci-fi dress, but this time Butler is part investigator in a planetside mystery as a bit of a future noir or tech noir detective.  Where Planetside featured plenty of the grunt-side action of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, this story delves more into the strategy and corporate politics (think Weyland Corp.), providing a fine standalone story.  Yet for those that take on the first novel (as they should), Spaceside fleshes out the secrets of why Butler was thrust far away across the galaxy to deal with the alien race called the Cappans in the first place.  Two books in and readers will be asking for more–Mammay has concocted one of the best science fiction universes around.  So just when a new series of Blade Runner novels is on its way, Spaceside fits the bill as a worthy read-alike of a future, cybernetically enhanced human trying to stay alive while he’s constantly dodging bullets (although Butler’s borg nature is downplayed for much of the story).  More like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner than Philip K. Dick’s source novel, Mammay’s story is a compelling character study that amps up the intrigue.

Instead of spending most of this novel’s adventure in outer space as the title might suggest, ex-Colonel Butler finds himself grounded, exiled, shunned, and scorned for the murders of millions of Cappans resulting from his decisions in the pages of Planetside.  Instead Butler is relegated to leading corporate team-building sessions where he takes groups on virtual reality combat missions with him as the real-life war hero.  It’s embarrassing, but it pays the bills, and it keeps him busy after his wife left him and took half his money.  That’s until the CEO calls him into his office to investigate a hacking of a major rival corporation–after all, his title has the word “security” in it.  If Butler can figure out what went wrong at the rival, then his own company can make sure it doesn’t happen to them, too.  Or so his CEO figures.

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Of the dozens of movies coming to your local theater between now and August, we spotted ten to highlight today.  Although Disney continues to recycle past hits into new variants, like Dumbo, Aladdin, Toy Story, and Lion King, Warner Brothers, Universal Pictures, and the rest of the pack are still holding their own with their latest efforts, all vying for the biggest box office win.  So along with Columbia Pictures’ Spider-Man: Far From Home (partnering with Disney’s Marvel Studios) and the latest Disney purchase, 20th Century Fox’s Dark Phoenix, there’s Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla: King of the Monsters coming next week, Universal’s The Secret Life of Pets 2, Columbia and Amblin’s Men in Black: International, New Line and Warner Brothers’ Shaft sequel, Universal’s Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, Luc Besson’s Anna, and Columbia delivering Quentin Tarentino’s next feature, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, all in the coming summer season (realizing the studios don’t follow the actual calendar seasons).

You may have seen a few of these movie trailers before, but most we’ve been stacking up for today.  We’re even throwing in the trailer for the Downton Abbey movie, which eeks into the summer calendar, arriving September 20.

So start planning to fit these in.  This week sees Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown team up with Godzilla in the first big movie on our list, Godzilla: King of the Monsters The final X-Men movie of the 20-year run arrives the following week with Dark Phoenix We’re sure Men in Black: International will be a big hit.  And the third Marvel movie of the year arrives with Spider-Man: Far from Home for the Fourth of July weekend.  Some good prospects lie ahead!

In case you missed them, here are the movie trailers for the summer’s biggest releases:

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The master of the assassin sub-genre is back again.  You may know him for writing and directing The Fifth Element (starring Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich), and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (starring Cara Delevingne and Dane DeHaan), but you may also know Luc Besson as the writer and director of the 1990 film Le Femme Nikita with Anne Parillaud (and its English remake, Point of No Return with Bridget Fonda), and the 1994 movie The Professional (Natalie Portman, Jean Reno).  He’s also written the screenplays for The Transporter starring Jason Statham (2002), Taken starring Liam Neeson (2008), and Colombiana starring Zoe Saldana (2011).  Then he tied together his science fiction sense with his trademark badass woman leading role in 2014 with Lucy, starring Scarlet Johansson.  That’s several assassins, spies, and action sequences in Luc Besson’s personal dossier.

Besson is writing and directing his next film, too.  It’s called Anna, and he’s tapped the actress behind the unforgettable alien woman from Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Sasha Luss (who played the ill-fated Princess Lïhio-Minaa) as the title character.  From its first trailer (check it out below), Anna seems to be part Red Sparrow and part Atomic BlondeOr another La Femme NikitaBut it’s going to be very difficult for fans of spy movies to differentiate this latest entry from Atomic Blonde, especially if the film is really structured as revealed in the trailer.  It looks like it could be a remake, but it isn’t.

Some credibility and gravitas come from the presence of Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren, whose own badass spy and assassin role in RED and RED 2 should come to mind.  Other actors in the film include Luke Evans (The Fast & Furious series, The Hobbit series) and Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later, Tron: Legacy, The Dark Knight Rises).

Here’s the first trailer for Luc Besson’s Anna:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

James Cameron has plenty to say about science fiction and he pulls in some sci-fi directors and dozens of sci-fi actors and creators to lay it all out in his new AMC series James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction.  Many series have wrestled with the subject of defining science fiction, most recently Ridley Scott’s Prophets of Science Fiction, where the Alien and Blade Runner director honored George Lucas, Robert Heinlein, Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Philip K. Dick, H.G. Wells, and Mary Shelley. Not known for his interviewing, Cameron opted to record more informal chats with a small circle of his contemporaries, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan, and Arnold Schwarzenegger (plus an interview by friend/science fiction writer Randall Frakes of Cameron himself), attempting to guide them down his framework of analysis, sometimes gaining agreement and other times sparking interesting tangent questions.  The interviews are divided up and sprinkled across six episodes of the AMC television series, and the blanks are filled in with sound bites from creators, professors, writers, and popular names from modern science fiction.  But the companion book, also titled James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction, is far more insightful, showing the broader unedited interview text for each of Cameron’s six key contributors, plus great color artwork to illustrate his history of the genre.  Ultimately the book is a more useful, informative, and interesting overview of science fiction than what the series provides, and recommended for fans wanting to dig deeper into the history of the genre.

For those that haven’t encountered a review of the genre, Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction, available now from Insight Editions, will provide the appropriate highlights.  The combined narrative is at its best when attempting to find the reasons for the importance of science fiction as literature and art, as influence to society, and as a reflection on mankind’s discovery of self, but it’s also fun for any diehard genre fan to follow along, agree or disagree, and ponder the myriad alternatives to the examples given to illustrate the topics covered.  The book is better than the TV series at analyzing and presenting the coverage, tying each key contributor to a sub-genre or major sci-fi concept: alien life, outer space, time travel, monsters, dark futures, and intelligent machines.  Cameron has done his homework and claims to have read nearly anything and everything since he was a kid on the subject.  His own significant science fiction contributions, namely Terminator, Terminator 2, and Aliens, and developing the two biggest women film roles of the genre–Sarah Connor in Terminator 2 and Ellen Ripley in Aliens–are only slightly overshadowed by more than required attention to his film Avatar  as frequent centerpiece topic. He also spends more time on modern science fiction films, sometimes leaving behind classic films that had done it all before.  So surprisingly great influences like Star Trek, Rod Serling, and John Carpenter get far less attention proportionately than you’d find in another science fiction overview, and the vast body of science fiction television series is barely tapped at all.

The most insight comes from George Lucas and Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Lucas provides rare reactions to fan criticism of Jar Jar Binks, his Star Wars prequels generally, and his concept of midichlorians manipulating the Force, which he states would have been key to the third trilogy had he kept control of the franchise.  Immersed in an interview about science fiction his responses seem to reflect regret in selling Star Wars to Disney, as if he had far more Star Wars stories to tell.  The rest of the book’s seriousness is counterbalanced nicely by Schwarzenegger, who Cameron repeatedly attempts to get introspective about playing science fiction’s greatest villain and hero cyborg as the Terminator.  Not a method actor, Schwarzenegger reveals himself as fanboy and entertainer when it comes to science fiction, drawn more to the spectacle and excitement of science fiction roles and how the characters appear on the screen more than any life-changing meaning from the stories that Cameron is searching for.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The appeal for fans of this summer’s big-budget science fiction adventure Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets has been the greatest for its spectacular visuals.  The film was a labor of love for director Luc Besson, whose science fiction classic The Fifth Element stands alone in the sci-fi genre for its elaborate designs and completely new look at the future.  Besson fell in love with the French comic book source material by Jean-Claude Mézières that featured space pilots Valerian and Laureline.  Besson says he counts Laureline as his first love, “She was totally free and badass, and a very modern heroine.”  For years Besson did not think an adaptation could be done, until he watched James Cameron’s Avatar, and that film was the impetus for him to begin to look at the idea anew.  The result became Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

A film that pushes the possibilities of a future that is not so bleak and dystopian–as so many science fiction films paint the future–deserves a proper account to detail its creation.  That book is Mark Salisbury’s The Art of the Film: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, a full-color, wall-to-wall visual, hardcover chronology of the concept art and photographs of the film’s characters, planets, spaceships, and costumes.  Well-known for his behind the scenes looks at Crimson Peak, Prometheus, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Elysium, and Alice in Wonderland, and his landmark series on creating comic books from the viewpoint of the industry’s best, including Artists on Comic Art and Writers on Comics Scriptwriting, Salisbury provides more here than an edited accumulation of imagery.  He tells both the development of the film scene-by-scene from beginning to end, and interweaves the framework for the story on the screen.

Salisbury’s primary source in the book is Besson himself, who cites the creations he used in the film when he adhered to Mézières’s original vision from the source material, and when–and why–he didn’t.  It’s a testament to his adaptation that Mézières approved of his many creations and adaptations, including Valerian and Laureline’s famous ship, the Intruder. 

No expense was spared by Besson in creating Valerian with complete artistic freedom.  His development of a creative team was unprecedented.  Instead of taking the traditional route in developing the team–such as hiring thirty designers working very fast–as used for traditional films, his requirements for his effects-laden film were far greater than normal, requiring more outsourcing to multiple teams, including Industrial Light and Magic.  But instead of hiring a core team of thirty key creators for three months, he hired five creators for a year.  “We sent a message to more than 1,000 design schools saying, ‘We are going to make a design film and if you want to participate, submit an alien, a spaceship, and a world,'” he said.  He received 3,000 entries.  The lucky five chosen were Patrice Garcia, who had worked with Besson on The Fifth Element and Arthur and the Invisibles, Ben Mauro (Elysium, The Hobbit), book designer Marc Simonetti, illustrator Alain Brion, and artist Feng Shu.  Veteran storyboard/concept artist Sylvain Despretz (Alien Resurrection) joined the team, and it is their artwork and ideas that readers primarily will find throughout the book–and in the film.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, reviewed here at borg.com, is a summer marvel, director Luc Besson’s epic sci-fi, space fantasy we loved, but was overlooked by many because of its clunky title, its lackluster publicity efforts, and its spectacular visuals that overshadowed its simple love story in the eyes of many mainstream movie critics.  It deserves another look, and for those who missed the story for the special effects, its novelization by author Christie Golden is a great way to see what you may have missed.  Another movie that suffered similarly, but only for U.S. audiences, was director Yimou Zhang’s epic film The Great Wall, reviewed here at borg.com, a late winter release full of inspired, colorful, medieval martial arts battles, but a thinner narrative that was also arguably overshadowed by its own dazzling imagery.  Mark Morris’s novelization of the film fleshes out and clarifies the roles of all the characters that filled the enormous cinematic event.

Putting the movies aside, if you’re a fan of novelizations–if you just enjoy experiencing a film word by word, zipping along with a fun action adventure–each of these books should accompany you in your luggage on your next vacation.  I’ve read and enjoyed this segment of genre fiction for years, and remember spending cross-country trips in the backseat of the family car reading the novelizations of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, The Empire Strikes Back, and the 1989 movie Batman.  Years ago before videos, DVDs, Blu-rays, and digital HD, when the prospect of seeing the movie again in the near future was slight, fans really could only turn to novelizations and the rare films that received the comic book adaptation.  You might think the market may not be as great for novelizations today, yet movies continue to get re-written into novels.  And many are still reading–and loving–them.

Both Valerian and The Great Wall have similar narrative structures.  Both involve two protagonists that embark on a hero’s journey against a giant landscape of action and activity.  In Valerian, two spacepilot operatives are charged with the mission to re-capture a stolen artifact, and along the way they are pulled into a greater conflict involving the fate of millions.  In The Great Wall, two medieval warriors are on a quest to seek the rumored new creation called gunpowder, when their search is cut short by a rare, mythic encounter that could spell certain doom for the cities bordering China’s Great Wall.  The relationship of each of these pairs of characters is very modern, full of dialogue with modern quips, verbal sparring and ribbing each other despite their friendships, and the characters themselves are not necessarily relatable or even likeable at first glance.  If you don’t immediately buy the characters’ relationships, then the global conflict they take us through, despite the films’ epic visuals, may simply not work for you.  But if you give them a chance and jump aboard with the characters, then both stories can be great fun. The novelizations are a great way to give them that chance.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

This weekend sci-fi and fantasy fans finally get to see French director Luc Besson’s singular vision decades in the planning as Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets arrives in theaters.  An adaptation of the fifty-year-old, popular, French comic book series Valerian and Laureline, the film delivers in a magnificent, grandiose way only Besson could deliver.  As with his sci-fi classic The Fifth Element, Besson–who also directed Lucy, The Professional, and La Femme Nikita–has added another genre-defining film to the list of must-see sci-fi movies.  If there’s any criticism due, it may be that the film in places is too much like The Fifth Element, but where Valerian falls short, it makes up for it with wall to wall action and alien creations that look nothing like anything Hollywood has ever produced.  It’s rounded out with spectacular production design by Hugues Tissandier (Lucy, Taken, The Transporter) and a riveting score by composer Alexandre Desplat (The Golden Compass, Argo, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows).

  • Best use of 3D cinematography in a movie to date?  Check.
  • Best visual depiction of strange new worlds and new alien life in a film to date?  Check.
  • Best hold-onto-your-seats spaceship rides through these strange new places?  Check.

Credit Besson, WETA Digital, Industrial Light and Magic, and hundreds of other visual effects, special effects, make-up, costume and prop creators–Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets looks like nothing you’ve seen.  Combine 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, and The Fifth Element, and you’ll have an idea of Besson’s big screen epic filled with all sorts of wonderful images.

Valerian is a snapshot of a day in progress in the life of two cocky space pilots.  The leads are two attractive, snarky and sassy, young and very modern, would-be lovers in a typical “will they or won’t they” set up–Valerian, played by Dane DeHaan (The Amazing Spider-man 2, True Blood), and Laureline, played by model-turned-actress Cara Delevingne (Suicide Squad, Anna Karenina).  Besson peppers the landscape of the big action sequences with the bare threads of their relationship, showing us if their relationship has room to be anything else beyond mere partners.  Beyond their through-line is a race to uncover the mystery behind an Avatar-inspired race of willowy peacelovers ravaged by war.  How are they related to a vision seen by Valerian, and are these peaceful people really the good guys or the bad guys?  But most of the time Valerian and the City of Thousand Planets is a non-stop rollercoaster ride as the leads assemble clues and rescue each other a time or two, as they try also to rescue a missing commander and uncover the mystery behind two unusual items in their possession: a rare magical pearl and a wide-eyed, pint-sized creature with extraordinary abilities.

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When we ran down our list of some of the biggest anniversaries happening in 2017 this New Year’s Day here at borg.com, we mentioned that Valerian, the lead character in director Luc Besson’s new sci-fi extravaganza Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, turns 50 this year.  Also celebrating this year is Besson’s most famous work, 1997’s visual spectacle The Fifth Element.  To celebrate the film’s 20th anniversary, Fathom Events is partnering with Sony Pictures next month to bring the film back to theaters for two days only.

The Fifth Element represents the best science fiction has to offer.  The look at Bruce Willis’s hero Korben Dallas living the life of an “every man” in a future New York City was groundbreaking.  At the end of one career Dallas finds himself driving a cab, getting hounded by his mother on the phone, talking to his cat, and ordering Chinese food–normal things from this century, yet with Dallas we see a future efficiency apartment jammed with every day necessities and every day wonders.  The Fifth Element also blends in fantastical elements–a fantastic journey with humor, action, and stunning visuals connecting ancient history and the future of not only humans, but a federation of aliens from other worlds, too.

The set decoration, cinematography, make-ups, costumes, and props were groundbreaking.  When we grew up thinking about the ideal year 2000, the bustling space travel and flying cars in The Fifth Element are exactly what we were hoping for.  Compare The Fifth Element with any other film with a vision of our future and the competitors will be difficult to measure up.  Only Doctor Who and Star Trek really compare, also mixing elements of sci-fi and fantasy with aliens and other worlds, and the most creative, visionary, artistic components–yet which single two-hour segment has all the elements boiled down into two epic hours?

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2001: A Space Odyssey.  Star Wars.  Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  Blade Runner.  The Fifth Element.  Each one of these movies stretched our imaginations in new directions, providing us with new visions of what the future could look like.  Luc Besson, the director who gave us the spectacular worlds of The Fifth Element, is back this summer with Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.  His latest trailer provides a look at some stunning cityscapes and space views, reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s groundbreaking world in Blade Runner and Besson’s own work on The Fifth Element.

Then there are the alien costumes and make-ups, the real and digitally-created characters.  Again, only The Fifth Element had so much diversity in its creativity and vision.  The only odd choice is the focus in the trailers on Valerian as “Based on the groundbreaking novel that inspired a generation.”  This makes sense for a European trailer, but U.S. audiences will be puzzled seeing this statement learning about the graphic novel even the most diehard of comic book aficionados have never heard of.  Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is based on Valerian and Laureline, the French science fiction comic book series from the 1960s, created by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières.  Get an advance look at the original source material before the movie comes out here.

valerian-comics-and-movie

The 1967 comics and the 2017 movie.

In October 2015 we reported here at borg.com that director Luc Besson was looking for a few good outfits to feature in a dinner party scene to take place in a city of millions and a myriad of humanoid alien races.  So he hosted a costume design contest.  The diverse and futuristic winning designs from the contest can be found here.

Besson, who also directed La Femme Nikita, The Professional, and Lucy, made a long-lasting statement in sci-fi fashion with his characters from The Fifth Element.  From Milla Jovovich’s body-taped Leeloo, to Bruce Willis’s orange-clad, understated everyman Korben Dallas, to the over-the-top Chris Tucker’s Ruby Rhod, from the striking opera singer Diva Plavalaguna (Maïwenn), to Gary Oldman’s creepy and villainous Zorg–the movie is a visual spectacle.

We now have the next trailer for Valerian, and it keeps looking better and better:

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